McLaughlin: Victims paying the price for justice system on brink of collapse

justice Sinéad McLaughlin

SDLP Justice Spokesperson Sinéad McLaughlin has said that victims are paying the price for a justice system which is on the brink of collapse.

She was speaking following warnings from the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland and the Victims of Crime Commissioner designate about the scale of the challenges facing the system.

Ms McLaughlin said:

“The ability of victims to have basic confidence in the functioning of our justice system is fundamental to its effectiveness, so it is deeply concerning that senior figures within the system are warning of long delays and dysfunctional processes that threaten to undermine that confidence entirely.

“It is clear that interminable waits take a huge toll on the emotional wellbeing of victims and can re-traumatise those who come forward to report a crime. The fact that some victims are even saying they would not report their crime due to their experience of the justice system is evidence of complete failure. It is also deeply worrying that in the recent CJINI report, the inspectors have been forced to reiterate recommendations made in the 2015 inspection, suggesting that progress has been unacceptably slow in dealing with these issues.

“We must explore all possible avenues to address the problems in the system. Although it is true that the PSNI and PPS are operationally independent, I believe that the challenges that the system faces should be at the top of the agenda for any incoming Minister to deal with. The report from Criminal Justice Inspection NI makes it clear that the Criminal Justice Board, which is chaired by the Minister, must set a clear vision and strategy for how to deal with the challenges regarding file quality, disclosure and case progression and the Board must own and drive this improvement process in a strategic and joined-up way.

“In a new Assembly, the SDLP will work hard to hold the Minister and their department accountable for the delivery of a justice system that prioritises the needs of victims and ensures that everyone gets timely access to the justice that they deserve, so that we can once again rebuild trust and confidence in our processes.”

Font size